Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures in Indiana Part II - The Shiny Shoes Strike Back

So, remember this post, where I recounted my old story from being in Indianapolis way back in the day?

Well, here's the story that spurred my recollection of that story:

I was heading out to Bloomington, Indiana to meet with a prospective manufacturing partner and to tour their facility.  Nothing glamourous - just your run-of-the-mill project management activity.
It was just a one-night trip, so I grabbed my garment bag, some business cards and off I went.  While I was on the plane ride over, I looked at my shoes and noticed that they were looking a little the worse for wear: a few nights out at the bar had left them scuffed up, and dotted with dried gin drinks.  Fortunately, airports remain the last refuge of the shoe shine guy, so when I landed in Indiana, I got my shoes shined.  And the shoe shine guy did a bang-up job:

I even tweeted about it:
Shoes shined and ready to go, I got my rental car and drove down to Bloomington.  My meeting was the next day, so I had a little bit of time to kill.  After doing some work in my hotel room I started to get a little stir-crazy.  I figured that as Bloomington is a college town, and as it was a Monday night, that there ought to be a good place to watch Monday Night Football somewhere.

After meandering around downtown Bloomington a little bit, I found myself at Scotty's Brewhouse.  It seemed like as good a place as any: They had the game on, plenty of beers on tap, and a bartender who looked like she'd stepped right out of a John Cougar Mellancamp video.  I grabbed a stool, ordered up a pint of Bell's Oberon and a "Mo'Fo Cluck Sandwich" and sat down to the strains of "Born in a Small Town" going through my head on repeat.

Two stools down from me on my right was another obvious business traveler, replying to emails on her blackberry while picking at her salad.  We struck up a bit of conversation to kill the time and to look a little less like the outsiders we were.  All in all, it was shaping up like a pretty enjoyable evening, until I heard something to my left.

You see, I'm Canadian, and as a Canadian living in the US, you get attuned to picking up references to Canada in your environment - it's like a sensitivity to Joni Mitchell wavelengths in your immediate environment.  Anyway, all of a sudden I picked up on a conversation to my left that involved hunting in Canada.  And the story involved a Canadian game warden pulling a gun on the teller of said story.  The level of ridiculousness in that telling was off the charts (nobody gets a gun drawn on them by a game warden unless they're an idiot), so I made ready to break into the conversation and call shenanigans on the whole affair.

But when I turned to my left, I only saw one person: a crazy-eyed, broken-looking townie telling his story to... well, The Universe, really...

Alarm bells

I did not want to get pulled in to this conversation and needed an out.  I turned to my right to get a lifeline from my fellow business traveler, but all I received was a sympathetic look that signaled "I'm very sorry, but I'm a woman travelling alone, and society dictates that you're gonna have be a gentleman and take this for the team."  I cursed under my breath and, in an effort to avoid eye contact, looked down at my shoes.

My shiny, shiny shoes...

Goddammit!!!! It's the shoes again!!! Why in the goddamned hell did I have to get my goddamn shoes shined!!!???  In Indiana?!?!

At that point I knew that I was well and truly !@#$ed

Sure enough, the next thing I heard from my left was "So how are you doing this evening, sir?"

"I'm good, thanks.  How are you?"  Why I didn't reply in a more please-don't-talk-to-me manner is beyond me.  I think I just don't have it in me to be brusque or rude like that... (you know... Canadian)

He sighed.  "Wellll.... I've been better..."  At least I knew enough not to take that bait.

I let the silence hang in the air, figuring he would fill it himself - which he did

"So, as you heard, I spent some time in Canada and had some stuff happen to me there.  I've actually traveled a lot.  I've been in jail in Mexico twice."

And away we went, with CrazedTownie giving me his official biography, which basically went something like this:

- CrazedTownie is born and raised in a small town
- CrazedTownie moves to California to be a surf-bum (shoulda had himself a ball in a small town...)
- CrazedTownie does a lot of drugs (I can't remember if he actually told me that - I may have just inferred it)
- CrazedTownie goes to Mexico
- CrazedTownie goes to Mexican jail (twice - because going to Mexican jail once apparently doesn't carry the deterrent value that you think it would)
- CrazedTownie apparently got along very well with the Warden while he was in Mexican jail (read into that what you will...)
- CrazedTownie returns from Mexico and then wanders Canada for a while, pissing off at least one game warden along the way
- Bloomington's Prodigal Son returns home to a small town

(I feel like someone should put this guy in touch with the Coen brothers - there's gotta be a movie idea in there somewhere, right?)

I listened to his tale as politely as I could, hoping I could gracefully exit the conversation at the end of the story, but no:

"So, as I said before..."

aww crap

"I'm not having a very good night."

here we go

"I just got out of the hospital.  I'm dealing with some broken ribs, my nose is broken and I have a fractured vertebra in my back"

wait - what?  And finally, my curiousity got the better of me, and against all better judgement, I decided to pick at the proverial scab... "How exactly did that happen?"

"These IU fratboys roughed me up last night.  I wasn't even doing anything to 'em.  They're actually here tonight.  I'm thinking I should go over there and talk things out with them."

Congratulations Indiana - Your consistency in putting me in possible bar brawl situations is unrivaled in the lower 48...

At this point, I feel like I am in the freakin' Twilight Zone.  Or maybe it's more like a Die Hard sequel: "How can the same $#!^ happen to the same guy twice?!?" 

Oh.  That's right.  It's the shoes... gotta be the shoes...

I take a second to diagnose the situation.  My new buddy here just got out of the hospital, has multiple broken bones, is hopped up on a combination of painkillers, and what looks to be vodka and cranberry juice, and wants to get back into it with the same bunch of random IU frat dudes who busted him up in the first place - presumably with me "Having his back."  Fortunately, having been through this once before, the please-don't-start-a-fight-and-get-my-@$$-kicked speech comes to me pretty naturally, and (thank goodness) it seems to work.

And finally, finally, relief arrives in the form of our wonderful, John-Mellancamp-video bartender who comes over to ask how our friend is doing, to which he replies:

"Can you do me a favor and kick me out after I have one more of these?"

"I'm gonna do you a favor and kick you out after this one.  I think it's time for you to go."

I could have kissed her in that moment.

CrazedTownie was civil about leaving the joint - it obviously wasn't the first time he'd been thrown out of there. 

The bartender apologized to me out of politeness.  I shrugged it off:

"Hey, no worries.  At least I have a story to tell when I get home, right?"

I left the bar and walked out onto the rainy streets of a small town, hoping for the drizzle to take some of the shine off of my too-shiny-for-Indiana shoes...

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